Cyprus enters second stage of coronavirus lockdown relaxation

Cyprus took yet another step back to pre-coronavirus pandemic normality with the lifting of all restrictions on movement, the reopening of most schools and the resumption of restaurants and other recreation spots services, officials announced on Thursday.

As of 6 a.m. local time, people drove to their jobs or to the shops without having to request prior permission by SMS. Police said they kept up their checks to the last moment, booking about 30 people for being out on the streets before the expiry of a night curfew.

Cypriot authorities said they had given more than 16 million permissions to people to go out since March 26, mostly to buy provisions or for individual training and walking a dog.

Owners of restaurants, taverns cafes, bars and pubs were busy since early Thursday morning in marking spaces and arranging tables in open spaces where they will receive customers, before resuming normal operation in about three weeks’ time.

They can have groups of no more than 10 people on the same table, but tables must have a space of at least two meters between them, which means that they can accommodate at any given time about half of the people they could receive.

Staff members will be required to wear a mask and gloves. Restaurants will have a single-use disposable menu and disinfectants on the table for people who would like to clean their plates. Single-use knives and forks will also be offered as an alternative choice to regular ones.

Bars and pubs were allowed to operate provided that they will not serve people on stools, but only to seated customers in line with social distancing regulations.

City authorities said they would facilitate recreation spots by allowing them to seat people in public space.

Cypriot Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said that despite reservations by teachers’ and parents’ associations, almost all elementary and secondary education pupils returned to their classes.

About 52,770 elementary education pupils and almost 23,000 gymnasia joined final grade lyceum students, who resumed classes since May 16.

First and second-year lyceum students will continue to be taught by distance learning.

Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios told state television the activation of the second stage of restrictions easing was made possible by the discipline and responsible behavior by the people, who complied with Health of Ministry regulations.

He urged people to behave in the same way during the second stage so as to make possible the third stage which mostly relates to the revival of travel and tourism, one of the most important sectors for the Cypriot economy, as it contributes 21 percent to the island’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Kousios refused to confirm that airports will resume operation as of June 9, saying that a final decision will be made on Friday by the Council of Ministers.

“The scientific team has made positive recommendations for the resumption of airport operations and hotels, and what remains to be done is the fixing of dates and the publication of security protocols by the Health Ministry,” Kousios said.

State television has quoted officials as saying that hotels would reopen as of June 1 and flights in and out of airports would resume as of June 9.